The cost of militarism is rising. The trend in imperialism today is that the cost of maintaining the empire is beginning to overwhelm the loot that is brought in. When imperialism was stronger it brought in many more profits than losses. This allowed for the development of a relatively aristocratic top layer of the working class, mostly white, who gained something from imperialist expansionism. But today it is becoming ever more costly to maintain such a far-flung empire against increasingly conscious and determined liberation struggles. It takes enormous expenditures not only on the most sophisticated weapons and on maneuvers involving huge numbers of troops but even on endless diplomatic and political efforts. All this must ultimately come out of the hides of the workers here.
Seen in another sense, the imperialist system is becoming too costly to be able to reproduce itself. This stands out when capitalism is compared to both ancient slavery and feudalism, societies that remained relatively stable for centuries. Under these systems, the surplus produced by the laboring classes went directly into consumption. Very little was used to expand the means of production, unlike the present economic system, where the driving force of production is to generate capital.
Under modern-day monopoly capitalism, with its enormous and costly military superstructure and its irreversible drive to revolutionize the means of production, the cost of production has become excessive. The capitalists must make an ever greater effort to unload these excessive costs on the working class; hence, high tech and low wages. Their anti-labor offensive is not the product of an aberration on the part of individual capitalists but comes from deep historical roots. It is a symptom showing that the system is economically out of date and bound to decline.
damn this feel so prescient
Luddites is a name frequently given to English workers who staged a series of uprisings between 1811 and 1816. These struggles began in Nottinghamshire, where groups of textile workers began to destroy knitting machines. They spread later to Lancashire, Cheshire and the West Riding of Yorkshire. Workers began to wreck cotton power looms and shearing machines. They had no coherent plan, no general aims and no political orientation.
This movement was of a thoroughly spontaneous character and was an expression of frustration. It was not ignorance as such which led to these wrecking and sabotage tactics. What it demonstrated was the organizational immaturity of the workers at that time, but also the character the class struggle can assume in the absence of a trade union that can respond to the needs and aspirations of the workers.
Marx said about the Luddites: "It took both time and experience before the workpeople learnt to distinguish between machinery and its employment by capital, and to direct their attacks, not against the material instruments of production, but against the mode in which they are used."
It is very interesting that this form of struggle should be cropping up again today, and in a country which is supposed to be in the advance guard of the technological revolution, with all its highly touted "benefits" for the workers.
However, there is also the subjective factor, the traditional labor relations policy, the collective bargaining approach which is summed up in the AFL-CIO report: "Organized labor believes that each worker is entitled to a fair day's pay for a fair day's work; that pay should include a share in the profits the worker helps to create, and thus unions seek a larger share of those profits than 'market forces' might dictate."
This century-old, vague, ambiguous formula disregards the most basic and fundamental reality of labor relations: that the relations between the employer and the employee, the boss and the worker, have their foundation in the existence of irreconcilable class antagonisms. These antagonisms do not lend themselves to solution by such vague terms as fairness and justice when each class views morality and justice from a different perspective. These different and opposing conceptions are based upon the struggle over the paid and unpaid portions of labor.
A workers' party must challenge and continually demonstrate the utter falsity and perniciousness of this idea. It must be continually demonstrated that the interests of the employers and the workers are diametrically opposed to each other, that the evolution of capitalist society demonstrates the existence of the class struggle rather than identity of class interests.
By accepting the identity of interests between employers and workers, the latter are forced into a subordinate position. The theory of the identity of interests inculcates in the workers the idea that the employers get their share, namely profits, and the workers get theirs, wages. Both supposedly get the fruits of their contribution to the product.
This is wholly erroneous. In reality the workers are subjected to exploitation while the employers reap the benefits of the unpaid labor of the workers. The difference between the class approach to the problem and even the most progressive trade union approach is that the latter would not acknowledge the objective significance of the relations between the employers and the workers.
Once the workers are frozen into the capital-labor relationship, once that is dogmatically accepted as the permanent condition of the workers, once this business of a fair day's work for a fair day's pay is the conception, it inevitably follows that the workers must make concessions regardless of whether the union is strong or weak. The issue becomes saving the company or industry.
In reality the company, if they mean by that the physical plant and so on, is in no danger of going under. No natural disaster is threatening it. It's only the ownership that may undergo some changes, from one individual to another, or to another group of employers in the case of bankruptcy.
Great changes in strategic and tactical approaches develop slowly. They are most often the product of a long line of evolutionary development which includes not only phases of slow growth but leaps and giant forward strides.
The first such struggle was for the right "to think unthinkable thoughts," to think of organizing the workers. It had been regarded as a conspiracy--any combination of workers to organize a union, even to conduct meetings, had been regarded as illegal.
That won, the next struggle was over the right to openly proclaim the need for organization and the right to strike. But the thing to remember is that the strikes came before striking was legalized. That's the lesson of the 1930s. The great sit-down strikes, which were the heroic age of modern labor organization, came first. Then came the law that validated collective bargaining, the Wagner Act.
What are ESOPs? ESOPs--Employee Stock Ownership Plans--are a form of veiled ownership by management where nominal ownership is by the workers. A study by Business Week2 showed that in early 1985 there were already 7,000 companies which had enrolled nearly 10 million workers into ESOPs. In the 1970s, there were fewer than half a million workers in ESOPs. There is no breakdown available on the percentage of union as against non-union workers. Most are in unorganized plants, but a considerable number are covered by union contracts.
ESOPs pose a problem of considerable importance to the trade union movement. Not only are they one of the crudest forms of class collaboration, but they also have a tendency to eventually swallow up the trade unions and deprive them of their independence.
The idea of employee stock ownership is not a new one. It began to flourish in the late 1920s and was fueled by the wild stock market speculation of that period. The idea at that time was for large corporations to put on promotion schemes for workers to buy company stock. However, what was considered a strong current for workers to become part "owners" of management came to an abrupt end with the great stock market crash of October 1929. The embryo ESOP movement collapsed, as did thousands of corporations, in the wake of the great capitalist crisis. It didn't get revived until the early 1970s.